Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 17, 2012

Strange days for state Senate

Niagara Gazette — Charles Dudley Warner was right when he declared that politics makes strange bedfellows.

A prime example is what’s happening on Capitol Hill in Albany where for the first time in modern history the state Senate will be controlled in 2013 by two “co-presidents” instead of a single majority leader. At least that’s how Sen. Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx, leader of a renegade group of Democrats portrays the evolving structure. 

The new form of government actually started taking shape nearly two years ago after a dissident group of senators were fed up with the dysfunctional system that seemed to gridlock the Legislature. They formed the Independent Democratic Conference, with four disgruntled Democrats agreeing to work with the Republican majority to make state government more effective. Klein spearheaded the drive of what quickly gained notice as “the breakaway Democrats.” The three other senators are: David Carlucci, 31, of Rockland County, the youngest member of the Senate; Diane J. Savino, who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, and David J, Valesky of the Syracuse area. Two other Democrats have talked about joining the group that would boost the renegade force to six.

If you’re keeping score, here’s the current makeup in the Senate: Republicans, 31, Democrats, 26, Independent Democratic Conference, 4, with two seats undecided.   

Under the plan, as Klein envisions it, the fledgling independent conference will attempt to reach a power-sharing agreement with the Senate Republicans. Exactly how that takes form will not be determined until all the ballots are counted in two undecided races. He hopes that whatever the outcome,” a bipartisan effort “will prove the catalyst for pushing state government forward. Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos, R-Rockville Center, Long Island, is also committed to ending the dysfunction that has plagued the Senate. 

“We felt there had to be a better way by governing in a by-partisan fashion,” Klein said last week. In a recent interview with New York Times reporter Thomas Kaplan, Klein said: “We can’t go back to the days of dysfunction. We can’t go back to the days or relying on every single Democrat to get things done, ignoring the other side completely, jamming through a legislative agenda which doesn’t have bipartisan support.” 

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